Xlviii. March, 1865
- From the North. -- rumored defeat of Gen. Early. -- panic among officials. -- moving the archives. -- Lincoln's inaugural. -- victory in North Carolina. -- rumored treaty with France. -- Sheridan's movements. -- letter from Lord John Russell. -- Sherman's progress. -- desperate condition of the government. -- Disagreement. Between the President and Congress. -- Dev.elopment of Grant's combination. -- assault at Hare's Hill. -- departure of Mrs. President Davis.
March 1Cloudy, cold, and dismal. We have no news, except from the North, whence we learn Lieut. Beall, one of our Canada raiders, has been hung; that some little cotton and turpentine were burnt at Wilmington; and that the enemy's columns are approaching us from all directions. They say the rebellion will be crushed very soon, and really seem to have speedy and  accurate information from Richmond not only of all movements of our army, but of the intentions of the government. They say Lynchburg and East Tennessee now occupy the mind of Gen. Lee; and they know every disposition of our forces from day to day sooner than our own people! What imbecile stolidity! Will we thus blunder on to the end? Congress has passed an act organizing the artillery force of Lee's army-submitted by Gen. Pendleton (Episcopal clergyman), who writes the Secretary that Col. Pemberton (Northern man and once lieutenant-general) is making efforts to induce the President to withhold his approval of the bill, which he deprecates and resents, as the bill is sanctioned by the judgment of Gen. Lee. From this letter I learn we have 330 guns and 90 mortars under Lee; enough to make a great noise yet! Lieut.-Gen. Grant has directed Col. Mulford, Agent of Exchange, to say that some 200 prisoners escaped from us, when taken to Wilmington for exchange, and now in his lines, will be held as paroled, and credited in the general exchange. Moreover, all prisoners in transitu for any point of exchange, falling into their hands, will be held as paroled, and exchanged. He states also that all prisoners held by the United States, whether in close confinement, in-irons, or under sentence, are to be exchanged. Surely Gen. Grant is trying to please us in this matter. Yet Lieut. Beall was executed!
March 2Raining. No well-authenticated news; but by many it is believed Staunton is in the hands of the enemy, and Lynchburg menaced. Nevertheless, the government is sending a portion of the archives and stores to Lynchburg! The clergymen are at work begging supplies for the soldiers; and they say the holding of Richmond and the success of the cause depend upon the success of their efforts, the government being null! A large per cent. of these preachers is of Northern birth-and some of them may possibly betray the cause if they deem it desperate. This is the history of such men in the South so far. But the President trusts them, and we must trust the President. Hon. Wm. C. Rives has resigned his seat in Congress. Alleged causes, ill health and great age-over 70. The Negro bill still hangs fire in Congress.  Roger A. Pryor is to be exchanged. He was the guest of Forney in Washington, and had interviews with President Lincoln. The government is impressing horses in the streets, to collect the tobacco preparatory for its destruction in the event of the city falling into the hands of the enemy. This fact is already known in the North and published in the papers there. A pretty passport and police system, truly! I saw a paper to-day from Mr. Benjamin, saying it had been determined, in the event of burning the tobacco, to exempt that belonging to other governments-French and Austrian; but that belonging to foreign subjects is not to be spared. This he says is with the concurrence of the British Government. Tobacco is being moved from the city with all possible expedition.
March 3Raining and cold. This morning there was another arrival of our prisoners on parol, and not yet exchanged. Many thousands have arrived this week, and many more are on the way. How shall we feed them? Will they compel the evacuation of the city? I hope not. Capt. Warner, Commissary-General, is here again; and if assigned to duty, has sufficient business qualifications to collect supplies. Thank God, I have some 300 pounds of flour and hal, that amount of meal-bread rations for my family, seven in number, for more than two months! I have but 71 pounds of meat; but we can live without it, as we have often done. I have a bushel of peas also, and coal and wood for a month. This is a guarantee against immediate starvation, should the famine become more rigorous, upon which we may felicitate ourselves. Our nominal income has been increased; amounting now to some $16,000 in paper-less than $300 in specie. But, for the next six months (if we can stay here), our rent will be only $75 per month — a little over one dollar; and servant hire, $40-less than eighty cents. It is rumored that Gen. Early has been beaten again at Waynesborough, and that the enemy have reached Charlottesville for the first time. Thus it seems our downward career continues. We must have a victory soon, else Virginia is irretrievably lost. Two P. M. The wind has shifted to the south; warm showers. Three P. M. It is said they are fighting at Gordonsville; whether or not the enemy have Charlottesville is therefore uncertain. I  presume it is an advance of Sheridan's cavalry whom our troops have engaged at Gordonsville.
March 4Raining hard, and warm. We have vague reports of Early's defeat in the Valley by an overwhelming force; and the gloom and despondency among the people are in accordance with the hue of the constantly-occurring disasters. Brig.-Gen. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, has been rebuked by Gen. Lee for constantly striving to get mechanics out of the service. Gen. Lee says the time has arrived when the necessity of having able-bodied men in the field is paramount to all other considerations. Brig.-Gen. Preston (Bureau of Conscription) takes issue with Gen. Lee on the best mode of sending back deserters to the field. He says there are at this time 100,000 deserters! C. Lamar, Bath, S. C., writes to the President that--, a bonded farmer, secretly removed his meat and then burnt his smoke-house, conveying the impression that all his meat was destroyed. The President sends this to the Secretary of War with the following indorsement: “For attention-this example shows the vice of class exemption, as well as the practices resorted to to avoid yielding supplies to the government.” The Legislature of North Carolina has passed resolutions exempting millers, blacksmith, etc.-in contravention of the act of Congress-and directing Gov. Vance to correspond with the Secretary of War on the subject. This bears an ugly aspect. Gen. Early's little army is scattered to the winds. Charlottesville has been in possession of the enemy, but at last accounts Gen. Rosser, in Sheridan's rear, held it. Sheridan advanced to Scottsville; and is no doubt still advancing. Lynchburg is rendered unsafe; and yet some of the bureaus are packing up and preparing to send the archives thither. They would probably fall into the hands of the enemy. Gen. Lee is in the city — where there is much confusion of tongues-and impatient, waiting for the next scene of the drama. If there was to be concert of action between Grant and Sheridan, probably the copious rains have prevented it. Two P. M. There is almost a panic among officials here who have their families with them, under the belief that the city may be suddenly evacuated, and the impossibility of getting transportation.  I do not share the belief — that is, that the event is likely to occur immediately; but if it should occur, I know my wife and children will remain — for a season. We faust “pray that our flight be not in the winter.” Gen. Lee was closeted with the Secretary of War several hours to-day. It is reported that Gen. L.'s family are preparing to leave the city.
March 5Bright and cool; some frost this morning. I saw an officer yesterday from Early's command. He said the enemy entered Charlottesville on Friday at half-past 2 o'clock P. M., between 2000 and 3000 strong, cavalry, and had made no advance at the latest accounts. He says Gen. Early, when last seen, was flying, and pursued by some fifteen well-mounted Federals, only fifty paces in his rear. The general being a large heavy man, and badly mounted, was undoubtedly captured. He intimated that Early's army consisted of only about 1000 men! Whether he had more elsewhere, I was unable to learn. I have not heard of any destruction of property by the enemy. There is still an accredited rumor of the defeat of Sherman. Perhaps he may have been checked, and turned toward his supplies on the coast. ! learn by a paper from Gen. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, that the machinery of the workshops here is being moved to Danville, Salisbury, and other places in North Carolina. He recommends that transportation be given the families of the operatives; and that houses be built for them, with permission to buy subsistence at government prices, for twelve months, that the mechanics may be contented and kept from deserting. This would rid the city of some thousands of its population, and be some measure of relief to those that remain. But how long will we be allowed to remain? All depends upon the operations in the field during the next few weeks-and these may depend upon the wisdom of those in possession of the government, which is now at a discount. The Secretary of the Treasury is selling gold for Confederate States notes for reissue to meet pressing demands; the machinery for manufacturing paper money having just at present no certain abiding place. The government gives $1 of gold for sixty of its own paper; but were it to cease selling gold, it would command $100 for $1.
March 6A bright frosty morning. This day I am fifty-five years of age. It is now reported that Gen. Early made his escape, and that most of his men have straggled into this city. One body of Sheridan's men are said to have been at Gordonsville yesterday, coming hitherward, while another were near Scottsville, aiming for the South Side Railroad. The Adjutant-General, having granted furloughs to the returned prisoners two days ago, to-day revokes them. Will such vacillating policy conciliate the troops, and incite them to heroic deeds? The President and his wife were at church yesterday; so they have not left the city; but Gen. Lee's family, it is rumored, are packing up to leave. I bought a quarter of a cord of oak wood this morning to mix with the green pine, and paid $55 for it. Gen. Early's cavalry, being mostly men of property, were twothirds of them on furlough or detail, when the enemy advanced on Charlottesville; and the infantry, being poor, with no means either to bribe the authorities, to fee members of Congress, or to aid their suffering families, declined to fight in defense of the property of their rich and absent neighbors! We lost four guns beyond Charlottesville, and our forces were completely routed. There are rumors to-day that a column of the enemy's cavalry has reached Hanover County. Gen. R. E. Lee has ordered Major-Gen. Fitz Lee's cavalry to march against them. Twelve M. They are bringing boxes to the War Office, to pack up the archives. This certainly indicates a sudden removal in an emergency. It is not understood whether they go to Danville or to Lynchburg; that may depend upon Grant's movements. It may, however, be Lee's purpose to attack Grant; meantime preparing to fall back in the event of losing the day. Four days hence we have a day of fasting, etc., appointed by the President; and I understand there are but three day's rations for the army — a nice calculation. Gen. Johnston telegraphs the Secretary that his army must suffer, if not allowed to get commissary stores in the North Carolina depots. The Secretary replies that of course his army must be fed, but hopes he can buy enough, etc., leaving the stores already collected for Lee's army, which is in great straits.
March 7Bright and frosty. Yesterday we had no certain accounts of the movements of Sheridan. His force was said to be near Charlottesville-at Keswich. Fitz Lee's cavalry and Pickett's infantry were sent in that direction. Not a word has yet appeared in the Richmond papers concerning this movement from the Valley — the papers being read daily in the enemy's camp below. We hear of no corresponding movement on the part of Grant; and perhaps there was none. Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. If these indications do not suffice to bring the speculators into the ranks to defend their own property (they have no honor, of course), the city and the State are lost; and the property owners will deserve their fate. The extortioners ought to be hung, besides losing their property. This would be a very popular act on the part of the conquerors. On the 4th inst., the day of inauguration at Washington, the troops (Federal) near Petersburg got drunk, and proposed an hour's truce to have a friendly talk. It was refused. I met my friend Brooks to-day, just from Georgia, in a pucker. He says the people there are for reunion. Mr. B. rented his house to Secretary Trenholm for $15,000-furnished. It would now bring $30,000. But he is now running after teams to save his tobacco-he a speculator! A letter was received yesterday from--, Selma accusing the Assistant Secretary of War, Judge Campbell, his brother-in-law, Judge Goldthwait, and Judge Parsons, of Alabama, with disloyalty, and says Judge C. is about to issue passports for delegates to go to the Chicago Convention, soon to assemble, etc. etc. He says Judge C. is the Fouche of the South. The letter is dated August 23d, 1864, and the President now sends it to the Secretary “for his information.” Judge Campbell has exercised almost exclusive control of the conscription and the passport business of the government since his appointment. The President and Secretary must attach some importance to the communication of Mr.--, the first for sending over the letter at. this juncture — the latter, for having just called in Lieut.-Col. Melton, A. A. G., who is assigned a position in his office, and is now superintending the business of passports. This arrangement also cuts the earth under the feet of Mr. Kean, Chief of the Bureau of War.  The raid of Sheridan has caused some speculators to send their surplus flour into the city for sale. Some sold for $700 per barrel to-day, a decline of $50. D. H. London says the enemy captured the tobacco at Hamilton's Crossing (near Fredericksburg) this morning. I doubt it, but would not deplore it, as it belongs to speculators, sent thither for barter with the enemy. No doubt many articles will decline in price — the owners fearing the coming of the enemy. The packing up of the archives goes on, with directions to be as quiet as possible, so as “not to alarm the people.” A large per cent. of the population would behold the exodus with pleasure!
March 8Damp and foggy. We have no military news yet-9 A. M. President Lincoln's short inaugural message, or homily, or sermon, has been received. It is filled with texts from the Bible. He says both sides pray to the same God for aid-one upholding and the other destroying African slavery. If slavery be an offense,and woe shall fall upon those by whom offenses come,--perhaps not only all the slaves will be lost, but all the accumulated products of their labor be swept away. In short, he “quotes Scripture for the deed” quite as fluently as our President; and since both Presidents resort to religious justification, it may be feared the war is about to assume a more sanguinary aspect and a more cruel nature than ever before. God help us! The history of man, even in the Bible, is but a series of bloody wars. It must be thus to make us appreciate the blessings of peace, and to bow in humble adoration of the great Father of all. The Garden of Eden could not yield contentment to man, nor heaven satisfy all the angels. It is said the enemy have left Fredericksburg-bought all the tobacco, I suppose. To-day the State made distribution in this city of cotton cloth, three yards to each member of a family, at $5.50 for 7-8 and $6-25 for 4-4 width. The State paid about $3 per yard for it, and the profits make a portion of its revenue, or, perhaps, the revenue of its officers and agents. Nevertheless, there was a large crowd, and one man fainted. The shops sell at $12 to $15 per yard. Raining at 12 M. All quiet below. Another report of the defeat of Sherman is current to-day, and believed by many.
March 9Rained all night; clearing away this morning. Warm. Nothing positive from Sherman, Grant, or Sheridan. The enemy's papers say Gen. Early and 18,000 men were captured — which is nonsense. Yesterday the Senate passed the Negro troops bill-Mr. Hunter voting for it under instructions. The enemy did capture or destroy the tobacco sent to Fredericksburg by the speculators to exchange for bacon-and 31 cars were burned. No one regrets this, so far as the speculators are concerned. Letters from North Carolina state that the country is swarming with deserters-perhaps many supposed to be deserters are furloughed soldiers just exchanged. It is stated that there are 800 in Randolph County, committing depredations on the rich farmers, etc.; and that the quartermaster and commissary stores at Greensborough are threatened. Meal is selling at $2 per pound, or $100 per bushel, to-day. Bacon, $13 per pound. Two P. M. Cloudy, and prospect of more rain. It is quite warm. A great many officers are here on leave from Lee's army-all operations being, probably, interdicted by the mud and swollen streams. Sheridan failed to cross to the south side of James River, it being certainly his intention to cross and form a junction with Grant, cutting the Danville and South Side Roads on his way. I saw Mr. Benjamin to-day without his usual smile. He is not at ease. The country demands a change of men in the cabinet, and he is the most obnoxious of all. Again, there is a rumor of peace negotiations. All men know that no peace can be negotiated except for reconstruction-and, I suppose, emancipation.
March 10Raining and cold. This is the day appointed by the government for prayer, fasting, etc.; and the departments, shops, etc. are closed. The people; notwithstanding the bad weather, pretty generally proceeded to the churches, which will be open morning, noon, and night, for it is a solemn occasion, and thousands will supplicate Almighty God to be pleased to look upon us with compassion, and aid us, in this hour of extremity, to resist the endeavors of our enemies to reduce us to bondage.  The morning papers contain a dispatch from Lee, giving an account of a successful battle in North Carolina. I append it, as the first success chronicled for a great length of time.
March 11Bright and frosty. From a published correspondence between Gens. Hampton and Sherman, on the subject of retaliatory executions, it is mentioned by the former that the City of Columbia, S. C. was burned by the latter. Dispatches this morning inform us of some little successes-Hampton over Kilpatrick in the South, and Rosser over a body of the enemy at Harrisonburg, in the North. Some 1500 prisoners, paroled, arrived this morning-making some 10,000 in the last fortnight. I fear there will soon be a great scarcity of arms, when the negroes are drilled, etc. Mrs. Hobson, of Goochland County, a relative of my wife, has offered a home to my eldest daughter Anne. Mr. H. is wealthy, and his mansion is magnificent. It is lighted with gas, made on the plantation. I am often called upon to lend a copy of the “Wild Western scenes.” My copy is lost. I learn that new editions of my works are published in the United States, where the stereotype plates were deposited. Here, as in old times in the North, the publishers prefer to issue publications upon which they pay no copyrightand, I believe, most of our publishers. are not Southern men by birth, and hence have no care but for the profits of the business. Congress was to adjourn to-day. But it is said the President has requested them to remain a short time longer, as further legislation will be required growing out of a treaty with France, about to be  consummated. It is said an alliance has been agreed upon, offensive and defensive, etc. etc. If this should be true! It is but rumor yet-but was first mentioned, gravely, by Judge Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War.
March 12Bright and frosty. About one o'clock last night, there was an alarm, supposed to be the approach of the enemy from the West-Sheridan's cavalry-and the tocsin sounded until daylight. It was a calm moonlight night, without a cloud in the sky. Couriers reported that the enemy were at the outer fortifications, and had burned Ben Green's house. Corse's brigade and one or two batteries passed through the city in the direction of the menaced point; and all the local organizations were ordered to march early in the morning. Mr. Secretary Mallory and Postmaster-General Reagan were in the saddle; and rumor says the President and the remainder of the cabinet had their horses saddled in readiness for flight. About a year ago we had Dahlgren's raid, and it was then announced that the purpose was to burn the city and put to death the President, the cabinet, and other prominent leaders of the “rebellion.” Perhaps our leaders had some apprehension of the fate prepared for them on that occasion, and may have concerted a plan of escape. As well as I can learn from couriers, it appears that only some 1200 or 1500 of the enemy's cavalry advanced toward the city, and are now (10 A. M.) retiring-or driven back by our cavalry. But it is a little extraordinary that Gen. Lee, with almost unlimited power, has not been able to prevent 1200 Federals riding from Winchester to Richmond, over almost impracticable roads, without even a respectable skirmish wherein 1000 men were opposed to them. It is true Early was routed — but that was more than a week ago, and we have no particulars yet. The enemy's papers will contain them, however.
March 13Bright and pleasant. The reports of the army of Sheridan (mostly mounted infantry) being within a few miles of the city were at least premature. Subsequent reports indicate that none of the enemy's cavalry have been in the vicinity of Richmond, but that his force, a pretty strong one, is some 20 miles up the river, with pontoon trains, etc., manifesting a purpose to cross the James and cut the Danville Road. In this they will be disappointed probably.  The President vetoed several bills last week, among them the one legislating out of office most of the able-bodied postquarter-masters and commissaries. There is much anxiety to learn the nature of the communication he intends laying before Congress in a few days, and for the reception of which the session has been prolonged. The prevalent supposition is that it relates to foreign complications. Some think the President means to tender his resignation, but this is absurd, for he would be the last man to yield. To-day it is understood the Secretary of War is to be absent from his office, closeted with the President. Gen. Johnston is concentrating on the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, and perhaps a battle will occur near Goldsborough. Its issue will decide the fate of Raleigh, perhaps of Richmond. The President had the Secretary of War and Mr. Benjamin closeted nearly the entire day yesterday, Sunday. Some important event is in embryo. If Lee's army can be fed — as long as it can be fed-Richmond is safe. Its abandonment will be the loss of Virginia, and perhaps the cause. To save it, therefore, is the problem for those in authority to solve. If we had had competent and honest men always directing the affairs of the Confederacy, Richmond never would have been in danger, and long ere this independence would have been achieved. But passports have been sold, political enemies have been persecuted, conscription has been converted into an engine of vengeance, of cupidity, and has been often made to subserve the ends of the invader, until at last we find ourselves in a deplorable and desperate condition. Gen. Wise, who has been here a few days on sick furlough, has returned to his command, still coughing distressfully, and distressed at the prospect. Miers W. Fisher, member of the Virginia Secession Convention, neglected by the government, and racked with disease, is about to return to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He may submit and die. He might have done good service, but the politicians who controlled the Confederate States Government ignored him because he had once been a supporter of Gov. Wise for the Presidency. There is a report that Sheridan's force has crossed the James River. If this be so, the Danville Road is in danger, and the President and his cabinet and Congress are all in a predicament. No wonder there is some commotion! But the report may not be  true. It is also said Grant is crossing his army to the north side of the river. This may be a feint, but stirring events are casting their shadows before!
March 14Bright and pleasant, but indications of change. The papers contain no news from the armies, near or remote. But there was some alarm in the upper portion of the city about 9 P. M. last night, from a signal seen (appended to a balloon) just over the western horizon. It was stationary for ten minutes, a blood-red light, seen through a hazy atmosphere. I thought it was Mars, but my eldest daughter, a better astronomer than I, said it was neither the time nor place for it to be visible. The air was still, and the dismal barking of the ban-dogs conjured up the most direful portents. All my neighbors supposed it to be a signal from Sheridan to Grant, and that the city would certainly be attacked before morning. It was only a camp signal of one of our own detachments awaiting the approach of Sheridan. Sheridan's passage of the James River has not been confirmed, and so the belief revives that he will assault the city fortifications on the northwest side, while Grant attacks elsewhere. Yesterday the President vetoed several bills, and sent back others unsigned, suggesting alterations. Among them is the Conscript and Exemption bills, which he has detained ten days, as Senators say, on a point of constructive etiquette, insisting that the President and Secretary ought to make certain details and exemptions instead of Congress, etc. It is precious time lost, but perhaps in view of the great calamities immediately threatening the country, Congress may yield. But ten days might be enough time lost to lose the cause. The communication referred to by the President, in detaining Congress, has not yet been sent in, unless it be one of his qualified vetoes, and conjecture is still busy, some persons going so far as to hint that it relates to a capitulation, yielding up Richmond on certain terms. I have not heard of any demands of Grant of that nature. A dispatch from Gen. R. E. Lee, received this morning, says Fitz Lee's cavalry was at Powhatan C. H. last night (so it was not Fitz's signal), and had been ordered to cross to the north side of the James, which may not be practicable above Richmond. We shall probably see them pass through the city to-day. He says the roads are bad, etc. Sheridan, then, has not crossed the river.  Gen. Lee sends to the department this morning a copy of a fierce letter from Lord John Russell, British Secretary of State, to our commissioners abroad, demanding a discontinuance of expeditions fitted out in Canada, and the building and equipping of cruisers in British ports. It says such practices must cease, for they are not only in violation of British law, but calculated to foment war between Great Britain and the United States, which Lord John is very much averse to. The communication is sent to Washington, D. C., and thence forwarded by Mr. Seward to Lieut.-Gen. Grant, who sends it by flag of truce to Gen. Lee. Great Britain gives us a kick while the Federal generals are pounding us. The enemy have Fayetteville, N. C. Hardee and Hampton crossed the Cape Fear on the 11th inst. Sherman's army was then within 7 miles of Fayetteville. Bragg, after his fight near Kinston, had to fall back, his rear and right wing being threatened by heavy forces of the enemy coming up from Wilmington. Some of Sheridan's force did cross the James, but retired to the north side. So telegraphs Gen. Lee.
March 15Warm and cloudy. My cabbages coming up in the garden. The papers contain no war news whatever, yet there is great activity in the army. Sheridan's column is said to be at Ashland, and Grant is reported to be sending swarms of troops to the north side of the river, below, “in countless thousands.” The President's message, for the completion of which Congress was desired to remain, has been sent in. I will preserve this splendidly exordiumed and most extraordinary document. It is a great legal triumph, achieved by the President over his enemies in Congress, and if we are permitted to have more elections, many obnoxious members will be defeated, for the sins of omission and commission. The President strikes them “between wind and water,” at a time, too, when no defense would be listened to, for he says the capital was never in such danger before, and shows that without prodigious effort, and perfect co-operation of all branches of the government, the cause is lost, and we shall have negro garrisons to keep us in subjection, commanded by Northern officers. He will have the satisfaction, at least, of having to say a portion of the responsibility rested with his political opponents.  Mr. Benjamin, who is supposed to have written a portion of the message, was very jubilant yesterday, and it is said the President himself was almost jocund as he walked through the Capitol Square, returning home from his office. It is now rumored that a French agent is in the city, and that the President, besides his message, sent to Congress a secret communication. I doubt-but it may be so. Gen. Hood is here, on crutches, attracting no attention, for he was not successful. Judge Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War, said to Mr. Wattles, a clerk, to-day, that we were now arrived at the last days of the Confederacy. Mr. Wattles told me that the judge had been convinced, as far back as 1863,, that the cause was nearly hopeless. Some 1200 of Fitz Lee's cavalry passed through the city at 2 P. M. Gen. Longstreet has been ordered by Gen. Lee to attack Sheridan. He telegraphs back from north of the city that he “cannot find them,” and this body of cavalry is ordered to reconnoiter their position. I know not how many more men Fitz Lee has in his division, but fear at least half have passed.
March 16Clouds and sunshine; warm. Splendid rainbow last evening. We have nothing new in the papers from any quarter. Sheridan's position is not known yet, though it must be within a short distance of the city. There was no battle yesterday. Sheridan reports the killing of Commodore Hollins, and says it was done because he attempted to escape at Gordonsville. Sherman's march through South Carolina is reported to have been cruel and devastating. Fire and the sword did their worst. Congress, the House of Representatives rather, yesterday passed a bill suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The Senate will concur probably. Also the President's suggestion amending the Conscript act has been passed. The President has the reins now, and Congress will be more obedient; but can they save this city? Advertisements for recruiting negro troops are in the papers this morning. It is rumored that Sheridan has crossed the Chickahominy and got off without hinderance. If this be so, Gen. Lee will be criticised. One P. M. It is ascertained that Sheridan has withdrawn to the York River, and abandoned any attempt on Richmond.  And it is supposed by high military authority that but for the providential freshet, Sheridan would have succeeded in crossing the James River, and cutting the Danville Railroad, which would have deprived Lee's army of supplies. The freshet rendered his pontoon bridge too short, etc. This may be claimed as a direct interposition of Providence, at a time when we were fasting, praying, etc., in accordance with the recommendation of the government.
March 17Bright and cool. A violent southeast gale prevailed last evening, with rain. Of course we have no news in the papers from any quarter. Sheridan having retired, all the local troops returned yesterday. After all, the President does not reap a perfect triumph over Congress. The bill suspending the writ of habeas corpus passed the House by only four majority; and in the Senate it was defeated by nine against six for it! So the President cannot enjoy Cromwell's power without the exercise of Cromwell's violence. We shall have a negro army. Letters are pouring into the department from men of military skill and character, asking authority to raise companies, battalions, and regiments of negro troops. It is the desperate remedy for the very desperate caseand may be successful. If 300,000 efficient soldiers can be made of this material, there is no conjecturing where the next campaign may end. Possibly “over the border,” for a little success will elate our spirits extravagantly; and the blackened ruins of our towns, and the moans of women and children bereft of shelter, will appeal strongly to the army for vengeance. There is a vague rumor of another battle by Bragg, in which he did not gain the victory. This is not authentic; and would be very bad, if true, for then Sherman's army would soon loom up in our vicinity like a portentous cloud. The Commissary-General, in a communication to the Secretary urging the necessity of keeping the trade for supplies for Lee's army, now going on in Eastern North Carolina, a profound secret, mentions the “miscarriage of the Fredericksburg affair,” which proves that the government did send cotton and tobacco thither for barter with the enemy. One reason alleged for the refusal of Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, is the continuance of Mr. Benjamin in the cabinet.
March 18Bright and windy. The following telegram was received this morning from Gen. R. E. Lee: “Gen. Johnston reports that on the 16th Gen. Hardee was repeatedly attacked by four divisions of the enemy a few miles south of Averysborough, but always (cipher). The enemy was reported at night to have crossed Black River, to the east of Varina Point, with the rest of the army. Gen. Hardee is moving to a point twelve miles from Smithfield. Scofield's troops reported at Kinston, repairing railroad. Cheatham's corps not yet up. North Carolina Railroad, with its enormous amount of rolling stock, only conveys about 500 men a day.” There has always been corruption — if not treason-among those having charge of transportation. Yesterday the President vetoed another bill — to pay certain arrears to the army and navy; but the House resented this by passing it over his head by more than a two-thirds Vote. The Senate will probably do the same. We have a spectacle of war among the politicians as well as in the field! Gen. Whiting, captured at Wilmington, died of his wounds. The government would never listen to his plans for saving Wilmington, and rebuked him for his pertinacity. It is now said Sheridan has crossed the Pamunky, and is returning toward the Rappahannock, instead of forming a junction with G. rant. Senator Hunter's place in Essex will probably be visited, and all that region of country ravaged. It is rumored that Raleigh has fallen! By consulting the map, I perceive that after the battle of Thursday (day before yesterday), Hardee fell back and Sherman advanced, and was within less than thirty miles of Raleigh. The President, it is understood, favors a great and decisive battle. Judge Campbell said to-day that Mr. Wigfall had sent him Mr. Dejarnette's speech (advocating the Monroe doctrine and alliance with the United States), with a message that he (Mr. W.) intended to read it between his sentence and execution, thinking it would tend to reconcile him to death. The judge said, for his own part, he would postpone reading it until after execution.
March 19As beautiful a spring morning as ever dawned since the sun spread its glorious light over the Garden of Eden.  Cannon is heard at intervals down the river; and as we have had a few days of wind and sunshine, the surface of the earth is becoming practicable for military operations. I heard no news at the department; but the belief prevails that Raleigh has fallen, or must speedily fall, and that Richmond is in danger — a danger increasing daily. Thousands of non-combatants and families, falling weekly within the power of Sherman's army, have succumbed to circumstances and perforce submitted. I suppose most of those remaining in Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, etd. have taken the oath of allegiance to the United States; and I hear of no censures upon them for doing so. Whether they will be permitted long to enjoy their property — not their slaves, of course — will depend upon the policy adopted at Washington. If it be confiscated, the war will certainly continue for years, even under the direction of President Davis, who is now quite unpopular. If a contrary course be pursued, the struggle may be more speedily terminated — perhaps after the next great battle. And Mrs. Davis has become unpopular with the ladies belonging to the old families. Her father, Mr. Howell, it is said was of low origin, and this is quite enough to disgust others of “high birth,” but yet occupying less exalted positions. Ladies are now offering their jewels and plate at the Treasury for the subsistence of the army. It is not a general thing, however. Yesterday bacon was selling at. $20 per pound, and meal at $140 per bushel. If Sherman cuts the communication with North Carolina, no one doubts that this city must be abandoned by Lee's army-and yet it may not be so if diligent search be made for food. The soldiers and the people may suffer, but still subsist until harvest; and meantime the God of battles may change the face of affairs, or France may come to our relief. Four P. M. It is reported that the enemy have taken Weldon. They seem to be closing in on every hand. Lee must soon determine to march away-whether northward or to the southwest, a few weeks, perhaps days, will decide. The unworthy men who have been detained in high civil positions begin now to reap their reward! And the President must reproach himself for his inflexible adherence to a narrow idea. He might have been successful.
March 20Sunny and pleasant, but hazy in the south.  Cannon heard, quite briskly, south of the city. The papers report that Gen. Hardee repulsed Sherman on the 16th. But the official dispatch of Gen. Johnston says Hardee retired, and Sherman advanced after the fighting was over. Congress adjourned sine die on Saturday, without passing the measures recommended by the President. On the contrary, a committee of the Senate has reported and published an acrimonious reply to certain allegations in the message, and severely resenting the “admonitions” of the Executive. When the joint committee waited on the President to inform him that if he had no further communication to make them they would adjourn, he took occasion to fire another broadside, saying that the measures he had just recommended he sincerely deemed essential for the success of the armies, etc., and, since Congress differed with him in opinion, and did not adopt them, he could only hope that the result would prove he was mistaken and that Congress was right. But if the contrary should appear, he could not be held responsible, etc. This is the mere squibbing of politicians, while the enemy's artillery is thundering at the gates! The Secretary of War visited Gen. Lee's headquarters on Saturday afternoon, and has not yet returned. Breath is suspended in expectation of some event; and the bickering between the President and the Congress has had a bad effect-demoralizing the community. Governor Vance writes (17th instant) to the Secretary of War, that he learns an important secret communication had been sent to Congress, concerning probably his State, and asks a copy of it, etc. The Secretary sends this to the President, intimating that the communication referred to was one inclosing a view of our military “situation” by Gen. Lee, in which he concurred. The President returns Gov. V.'s letter, stating that he does not know his purpose, or exactly what he refers to; but [red tape!] until Congress removes the injunction of secrecy, no one can have copies, etc. Yet he suggests that Gov. V. be written to. Flour is held at $1500 per barrel. Senator Hunter publishes a card to-day, denying that he is in favor of reconstruction, which has been rumored, he says, to his injury, and might injure the country if not denied. A correspondence between Generals Lee and Grant is published,  showing that Gen. Longstreet has misunderstood Gen. Ord (Federal) in a late conversation, to the effect that Gen. Grant would be willing to meet Gen. Lee to consult on the means of putting an end to the war. The President gave Lee full powers; but Gen. Grant writes Gen. Lee that Gen. Ord must have been misunderstood, and that he (Grant) had no right to settle such matters, etc. Sad delusion! Assistant Secretary Campbell has given one of his clerks (Cohen, a Jew) a passport to return home-New Orleans-via the United States. The government is still sending away the archives.
March 21Clear and warm. Apricots in blossom. At last we have reliable information that Johnston has checked one of Sherman's columns, at Bentonville, capturing three guns. This success is a great relief — more as an indication of what is to follow, than for what is accomplished. So Bragg and Johnston have both shown successful fight lately. Beauregard next. Sherman has three full generals in his front, with accumulating forces. A few days more will decide his fate — for immortality or destruction. There are many red flags displayed this morning in Clay Street, for sales of furniture and renting of houses to the highest bidders. They have postponed it until the last moment to realize the highest possible prices-and they will get them, in consequence of Johnston's success, which revives the conviction that Richmond will not be evacuated. But they have overreached themselves in demanding extortionate prices — such prices depreciating the currency-$1500 being equivalent to one barrel of flour! If it be determined to abandon the city, what will houses rent for then? Lord Russell's letter, forwarded from Washington some days ago, after much consultation here, was sent back to Gen. Lee by the Secretary of State, declining to receive a communication from a neutral power through a hostile one, and expressing doubts of its authenticity. Gen. Lee returns the papers to-day, suggesting that the expression of doubts of the authenticity be omitted — but will, at all events, when returned to him again, have it delivered to Gen. Grant. Mr. Benjamin thinks there is some occult diplomatic danger in the papers-at least he is idle, and wants some diplomatic work on his hands, in the regular way. How to avoid doing anything whatever, diplomatically, with this matter before  him, is the very quintessence of diplomacy! He can look at it, read it, handle it, and return it to Lord John, and then diplomatically prove that this government never had any knowledge of its existence! The following official dispatch, from Gen. Lee, was received yesterday:
March 22Rained last night; clear and cool this morning. The report of another battle, since Sunday, in North Carolina, is not confirmed. The “Bureau of Conscription” still lives, notwithstanding the action of Congress! The President himself, who favored its abolition, yet being displeased with some of the details of the act, seems to have finally withheld his approval; and so Col. G. W. Lay, son-in-law of Judge Campbell, is again acting Superintendent. The great weight (wealth) of Gen. Preston perhaps saved it-and may have lost the cause. However, it is again said Judge Campbell will soon retire from office. He considers the cause already lost — the work quite accomplished. To-day some of our negro troops will parade in the Capitol Square. The Texas cavalry in Virginia-originally 5000-now number 180! Congress adjourned without adopting any plan to reduce the currency, deeming it hopeless, since the discovery of a deficiency, in Mr. Memminger's accounts, of $400,000,000! So the depreciation will go on, since the collection of taxes is rendered quite impracticable  by the operations of the enemy. Yet buying and selling, for what they call “dollars,” are still extensively indulged; and although the insecurity of slave property is so manifest, yet a negro man will bring $10,000 at auction. This, however, is only equivalent to about $100. Land, when the price is reduced to the gold standard, is similarly diminished in price.
March 23Clear, with high wind. Nothing further from North Carolina. A dispatch from Gen. Lee states that he has directed Gen. Cobb to organize an expedition into Tennessee, to cut the enemy's communications. Gen. Wafford, of Kentucky, is in Georgia, with 2000 mounted men, etc. Beef in market this morning sold at $12 to $15 per pound; bacon at $20, and butter at $20. The parade of a few companies of negro troops yesterday was rather a ridiculous affair. The owners are opposed to it. Gen. Rains sends in an indorsement, alleging that owing to the deception of Quartermaster Rhett (not furnishing transportation), he failed to arrest the approach of the enemy on a narrow causeway; and Columbia, S. C., and his shells, etc. fell into the hands of the enemy. A dispatch from Lee states that Gen. Thomas is at Knoxville, and that the enemy has commenced his advance from that direction — is repairing railroads, etc. The same dispatch says Gen. J. E. Johnston is removing his wounded to Smithsville from Bentonville; that the intrenchments of the enemy and greatly superior numbers of Sherman render further offensive operations impracticable. Grant's grand combination is now developed. Sherman from the Southwest, 70,000; Grant himself from the South, 70,000; Thomas, from the West, 40,000; and Sheridan, with 15,000 cavalry from the North--some 200,000 men converging toward this point. To defend it we shall have 120,000 men, without provisions, and, without some speedy successes, no communications with the regions of supply or transportation Nbw is coming the time for the exercise of great generalship! Gen. Early has been sent to the West--Tennessee.
March 24Clear and very windy. The fear of utter famine is now assuming form. Those who have the means are laying up stores for the day of siege,--I mean a closer and more rigorous  siege,--when all communications with the country shall cease; and this makes the commodities scarcer and the prices higher. There is a project on foot to send away some thousands of useless consumers; but how it is to be effected by the city authorities, and where they will be sent to, are questions I have not heard answered. The population of the city is not less than 100,000, and the markets cannot subsist 70,000. Then there is the army in the vicinity, which must be fed. I suppose the poultry and the sheep will be eaten, and something like a pro rata distribution of flour and meal ordered. There is a rumor of a great victory by Gen. Johnston in North Carolina, the taking of 1500 prisoners, 70 guns, etc.-merely a rumor, I am sure. On the contrary, I apprehend that we shall soon have news of the capture of Raleigh by Sherman. Should this be our fate, we shall soon have three or four different armies encompassing us! I tried in vain this morning to buy a small fish-hook; but could not find one in the city. None but coarse large ones are in the stores. A friend has promised me one-and I can make pin-hooks, that will catch minnows. I am too skillful an angler to starve where water runs; and even minnows can be eaten. Besides, there are eels and catfish in the river. The water is always muddy.
March 25Clear and cool. It is reported that Grant is reinforcing Sherman, and that the latter has fallen back upon Goldsborough. This is not yet confirmed by any official statement. A single retrograde movement by Sherman, or even a delay in advancing, would snatch some of his laurels away, and enable Lee to obtain supplies. Yet it may be so. He may have been careering the last month on the unexpended momentum of his recent successes, and really operating on a scale something more than commensurate with the forces of his command. Should this be the case, the moral effect on our people and the army will be prodigious, and a series of triumphs on our side may be the consequence. The Northern papers chronicle the rise in flour here — to $1500 per barrel — a few days ago, and this affords proof of the fact that every occurrence of military importance in Richmond is immediately made known in Washington. How can success be possible? But our authorities are confirmed in their madness.  There were some movements yesterday. Pickett's division was ordered from this side of the river to the Petersburg depot, to be transported in haste to that town; but it was countermanded, and the troops now (9 A. M.) are marching back, down Main Street. I have not learned what occasioned all this. The marching and countermarching of troops on this side of the river very much alarmed some of the people, who believed Lee was about to evacuate the city. Eleven A. M. Gen. Lee attacked the enemy's fort (Battery No. 5) near Petersburg this morning, the one which has so long been shelling the town, and captured it, with 600 prisoners, and several guns. This may interfere with Gen. Grant's projects on his left wing, against the railroad. It is rumored that Gen. Grant is moving heavy bodies of troops toward Weldon, to reinforce Sherman.
March 26Frost last night. Cloudy, cold, and windy to-day. Suffered much yesterday and last night with disordered bowels --from cold. This, however, may relieve me of the distressing cough I have had for months. After all, I fear Lee's attempt on the enemy's lines yesterday was a failure. We were compelled to relinquish the fort or battery we had taken, with all the guns we had captured. Our men were exposed to an enfilading fire, not being supported by the divisions intended to co-operate in the movement. The 600 prisoners were completely surprised-their pickets supposing our troops to be merely deserters. This indicates an awful state of things, the enemy being convinced that we are beaten, demoralized, etc. There was a communication for the Secretary this morning, from “headquarters;” but being marked “confidential,” I did not open it, but sent it to Gen. Breckinridge. Pickett's division has been marching for Petersburg all the morning.
March 27Bright, calm, but cold,--my disorder keeping me at home. The dispatch of Gen. Lee, I fear, indicates that our late attempt to break the enemy's lines was at least prematurely undertaken. The Dispatch newspaper has an article entreating the people not to submit “too hastily,” as in that event we shall have no benefit of the war between France and the United States--a certain event, the editor thinks. 
March 28Cloudy and sunshine; but little wind. Too ill to go to the department, and I get nothing new except what I read in the papers. Some of the editorials are very equivocal, and have a squint toward reconstruction. The President, and one of his Aids, Col. Lubbock, ex-Governor of Texas, rode by my house, going toward Camp Lee. If driven from this side the Mississippi, no doubt the President would retire into Texas. And Lee must gain a victory soon, or his communications will be likely to be interrupted. Richmond and Virginia are probably in extreme peril at this moment.
March 29Slightly overcast, but calm and pleasant. I am better, after the worst attack for twenty years. The only medicine I took was blue mass-ten grains. My wife had a little tea and loaf-sugar, and a solitary smoked herring-and this I relish; and have nothing else. A chicken, I believe, would cost $50. I must be careful now, and recuperate. Fine weather, and an indulgence of my old passion for angling, would soon build me up again. The papers give forth an uncertain sound of what is going on in the field, or of what is likely to occur. Unless food and men can be had, Virginia must be lost. The negro experiment will soon be tested. Custis says letters are pouring in at the department from all quarters, asking authority to raise and command negro troops: 100,000 recruits from this source might do wonders. I think Lee's demonstrations on Grant's front have mainly in view the transportation of subsistence from North Carolina. Mrs. President Davis has left the city, with her children, for the South. I believe it is her purpose to go no farther at present than Charlotte, N. C.-rear of Sherman. Some of their furniture has been sent to auction. Furniture will soon be low again. It is now believed that the government will be removed with all expedition to Columbus, Ga. But it is said Richmond will still be held by our army. Said! Alas I would it not be too expensive-“too much for the whistle?” Shad are selling at $50 per pair. If Richmond should be left to strictly military rule, I hope it will rule the prices. It is reported that Gen. Johnston has fallen back on Weldon; some suppose to attack Grant's rear, but no doubt it is because he is pressed by Sherman with superior numbers. A dispatch from Gen. Lee, to-day, states the important fact that Grant's left wing (cavalry and infantry) passed Hatcher's Run this morning, marching to Dinwiddie C. H. The purpose is to cut the South Side and Danville Roads; and it may be accomplished, for we have “here no adequate force of cavalry to oppose Sheridan; and it may be possible, if Sheridan turns his head this way, that shell may be thrown into the city. At all events, he may destroy some bridges-costing him dear.” But pontoon bridges were sent up the Danville Road yesterday and to-day, in anticipation, beyond the bridges to be destroyed.
March 30Raining rapidly, and warm.  Again the sudden change of weather may be an interposition of Providence to defeat the effort of the enemy to destroy Gen. Lee's communications with his Southern depots of supplies. I hope so, for faith in man is growing weaker. Our loss in the affair of the 25th instant was heavy, and is now admitted to be a disaster; and Lee himself was there! It amounted, probably, to 3000 men. Grant says over 2000 prisoners were registered by his Provost Marshal. It is believed the President advised the desperate undertaking; be that as it may, many such blows cannot follow in quick succession without producing the most deplorable results. The government would soon make its escape — if it could. Mrs. Davis, however, soonest informed of our condition, got away in time. Dispatches from Generalissimo Lee inform the Secretary that large expeditions are on foot in Alabama, Mississippi, etc., and that Thomas's army is rapidly advancing upon Virginia from East Tennessee, while no general has yet been designated to command our troops. The papers say nothing of the flank movement commenced yesterday by Grant. This reticence cannot be for the purpose of keeping the enemy in ignorance of it! I am convalescent, but too weak to walk to the department today. The deathly “sick man,” as the Emperor of Russia used to designate the Sultan of Turkey, is our President. His mind has never yet comprehended the magnitude of the crisis. Custis says letters still flow in asking authority to raise negro troops. In the North the evacuation of Richmond is looked for between the 1st and 25th of April. They may be fooled. But if we lose the Danville Road, it will only be a question of time. Yet there will remain too great a breadth of territory for subjugation — if the people choose to hold out, and soldiers can be made of negroes. It is reported (believed) that several determined assaults were made on our lines yesterday evening and last night at Petersburg, and repulsed with slaughter; and that the attack has been renewed to-day. Very heavy firing has been heard in that direction. Gen. Lee announces no result yet. We have 2,000,000 bread rations in the depots in North Carolina.
March 31Raining; rained all night. My health improving, but prudence requires me to still keep within the house. The reports of terrific fighting near Peterburg on Wednesday evening have not been confirmed. Although Gen. Lee's dispatch shows they were not quite without foundation, I have no doubt there was a false alarm on both sides, and a large amount of ammunition vainly expended.
We are sinking our gun-boats at Chaffin's Bluff, to obstruct the passage of the energy's fleet, expected soon to advance. Congress passed two acts, and proper ones, to which the Executive has yet paid no attention whatever, viz.: the abolition of the Bureau of Conscription, and of all Provost Marshals, their guards, etc. not attached to armies in the field. If the new Secretary has consented to be burdened with the responsibility of this contumacy and violation of the Constitution, it will break his back, and ruin our already desperate cause. Four P. M.-Since writing the above, I learn that an order has been published abolishing the “Bureau of Conscription.” Gov. Vance has written to know why the government wants the track of the North Carolina Railroad altered to the width of those in Virginia, and has been answered: 1st, to facilitate the transportation of supplies to Gen. Lee's army from North Carolina; and 2d, in the event of disaster, to enable the government to run all the locomotives, cars, etc. of the Virginia roads into North Carolina.